Sunday, March 25, 2007


Nobel Peace Prize Winner Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, is one of the several supporters of the 2nd Session on the Philippines of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) –- where the Arroyo regime, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (IMF-WB), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and multinational corporations are facing charges for gross violations of civil and political rights, economic plunder and ecological destruction, and transgression of the Filipino peoples’ sovereignty.


Nobel Peace Prize Winner Most Rev. Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, is one of the several supporters of the 2nd Session on the Philippines of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) –- where the Arroyo regime, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (IMF-WB), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and multinational corporations are facing charges for gross violations of civil and political rights, economic plunder and ecological destruction, and transgression of the Filipino peoples’ sovereignty.

“I wholeheartedly support the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on the Philippines in their noble cause and pray that all of us through them will succeed in this pursuit of justice and peace in the Philippines!” Tutu said in his message of endorsement sent to the PPT.

“Our brothers and sisters in the Philippines who are fighting for justice and well-being for all…are being slaughtered as we speak!” he said.

“Stop the terror inflicted on those who seek justice in your land,” he also called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “Stop using the so-called war against terrorism to oppress and kill your own people!”

Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. He had risen to world fame in the previous decades as a vocal opponent of apartheid. He is also a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism and, in 1986, was given the Magubela Prize for Liberty. In 2005, he was awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize.

He is also known as an anti-AIDS activist and has served as honorary chairman of the Global AIDS Alliance.

Other endorsers

Other prominent endorsements came from 2005 Right Livelihood Award (alternative Nobel) recipient and National Chairperson of The Council of Canadians, Ms. Maude Barlow; 2005 Right Livelihood Award recipient and founder of the Polaris Institute, Tony Clarke, PhD; World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS) official, Cardinal Uwishaka of Mozambique; Prof. Dr. Yong Bock-Kim of the Presbyterian Church of Korea; Secretary General Tang Shu of the Labor Party of Taiwan; Legislator Kao Su-Mei Chin of the Non-Partisan Solidarity Union of Taiwan; Japanese international affairs expert and Peace Research Institute director, Professor Kinhide Mushakoji; and Professor (Elizabeth) Jane Kelsey of the ARENA Network – Aotearoa / New Zealand.

The Asia-Japan Women’s Resource Center, through Secretary General Hisako Motoyama, has expressed solidarity with the Filipino people “in their fight against brutal powers.” The world’s largest grassroots environmental network, Friends of the Earth International, also sent its endorsement for the Tribunal session on the Philippines.

The PPT’s Second Session on the Philippines opened on March 22 in The Hague, The Netherlands. The PPT is expected to deliver its verdict this March 25.

The petition for the PPT’s Second Session on the Philippines was filed by: Hustisya (Justice), an organization of human rights victims under the Arroyo administration and their relatives; Desaparecidos, a group of relatives of victims of enforced disappearances; Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA or Society of Ex-Detainees Against Detention and for Amnesty); and the multi-sectoral Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance).


The PPT heard the case of the Filipino people against the Marcos regime and the U.S. government in 1980 in Antwerp, Belgium. The jury found the Marcos dictatorship “guilty of grave economic and political crimes against his own people and against the Bangsa Moro people,” and declared Marcos “unfit to govern and subject to severe punishment for his offenses.” It also recognized the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro National Liberation Front), which had filed the 1980 charges, as “the legitimate representatives” of the Filipino and Moro peoples, respectively.

The Member Jurors of the PPT First Session on the Philippines were: Sergio Mendes Arceo, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Guernavaca, Mexico; Richard Baumlin, Swiss legal scholar and parliamentarian; Harvey Cox, professor of theology at Harvard University and author of the book Secular City; Richard Falk, professor of international law at Princeton University and noted environmentalist; Andrea Giardina, professor of international law at the University of Naples; Francois Houtart, professor of sociology at the University of Louvain; Ajit Roy, Indian writer; Makoto Oda; Ernst Utrecht, professor at Sidney University and a fellow of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam; George Wald, Nobel Prize winner and president of the First Session on the Philippines; Muireann O’ Brian, Irish lawyer; and Gianni Tognoni, coordinator of the First Session on the Philippines.

The Marcos dictatorship was eventually ousted from power by a popular uprising in February 1986.


Falk, Houtart, and Oda are also serving as Jurors in the PPT Second Session on the Philippines. The other Jurors are: Lilia Solano (Colombia), a 2005 Right Livelihood Awardee, professor of Social and Political Sciences at the National University in Bogota, Director of the Project for Life and Peace, and a member of the National Movement of Victims ofState-Sponsored Crimes; Oystein Tveter (Norway), a lawyer and former director of the Karibu Foundation, an organization helping to rehabilitate child war victims in Rwanda; Ties Prakken, a Dutch human rights lawyer and professor of Criminal Law at Maastricht University; and Irene Fernandez, Malaysian trade unionist, women and consumer rights advocate, and a founding member of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD). Bulatlat

The administration’s Team Unity and the Genuine Opposition, the two main contending forces in this year’s senatorial elections, have been exchanging challenges to a debate for the past few weeks. While both sides have agreed on a possible venue for the debate, they have not agreed on what issues to debate about.



The administration’s Team Unity and the Genuine Opposition, the two main contending forces in this year’s senatorial elections, have been exchanging challenges to a debate for the past few weeks.

Both slates had even agreed on Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila as an appropriate venue for the debate.

But they have not agreed on what issues to debate about. Team Unity insists that the debate revolve only around economic issues. The Genuine Opposition refuses to tackle economic issues without going into political issues. So while a Team Unity-Genuine Opposition debate on the issues of the day has yet to take place, the two sides are already exchanging barbs on what to exchange barbs about at Plaza Miranda.

This makes it difficult for the electorate to assess the two slates based on what a public-affairs TV program has dubbed the “Philippine agenda.”

It is possible, however, to make at least a preliminary assessment of some of the candidates of both sides based on how they stood on issues that greatly affected the people. Issues that turned out to be of particular importance in the nearly three years since the last elections are those related to the Restructured Value-Added Tax (RVAT), the impeachment of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Subic rape case and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), political killings and repression, and the legislated wage hike.

Team Unity’s candidates are: Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Mike Defensor, Jamalul Kiram, Vicente Magsaysay, Cesar Montano, Teresa Aquino-Oreta, Prospero Pichay Jr., Ralph Recto, Luis “Chavit” Singson, Vicente Sotto III and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

The Genuine Opposition’s candidates are: Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Alan Peter Cayetano, Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, John Henry Osmeña, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Sonia Roco, Antonio Trillanes IV and Manuel Villar.


One of the issues the Arroyo administration was criticized for after the 2004 elections –- in which it was supposed to have won a fresh mandate three years after being installed into power through a popular uprising –- was the restructuring of the Expanded Value-Added Tax (EVAT), an indirect tax measure prescribed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (IMF-WB) on debtor countries.

The RVAT expanded EVAT coverage to include oil, electricity, and transport services and raised its taxation percentage from 10 to 12 percent. The EVAT Law that was passed in 1996 included the following: food products (processed meat, canned fish, coconut and vegetable oil, bakery products, noodles, milk, dairy products, coffee, sugar); clothing, footwear, tannery and leather products; drugs and medicine, furniture, pulp and paper; glass and glass products; cement, steel, iron, wood and most construction materials; electrical lamps and equipment; machinery and equipment both for manufacturing and agriculture; wholesale trade and retail trade; pawnshops; restaurants, cafes and other eating and drinking places; employment and recruitment agencies; motion picture production; hotels and motels; and telecommunications (including landline, post-paid and pre-paid mobile phone services).

The imposition of the RVAT led to the increase in prices of basic goods and services and added to the financial burdens of a populace already weighed down by high costs of living.

Recto –- who is known to have made much of his being a grandson of the nationalist statesman Claro M. Recto –- was the author of the Senate version of the RVAT law. In his political ads he boasts of the RVAT as one of his legislative accomplishments.

Also in Team Unity’s slate are: Arroyo, who voted for the Senate version of the bill and Zubiri, who voted in favor of the bill’s House version.

Arroyo even said the RVAT would not affect consumers much. “VAT does not affect much the public for it will not have a direct impact to consumers,” he said in an April 15, 2005 press conference.

Villar who is running as an independent but was adopted by the Genuine Opposition as a guest candidate voted for the RVAT.

Lacson was among the senators who voted against the bill.

Escudero and Cayetano, who were representatives when the RVAT bill was passed, are known to have been vocal critics of the said tax measure, and participated in several broad campaign efforts to stop the bill’s passage. John Osmeña is making his anti-RVAT position as one of his advocacies in his political ads.

Trillanes, who has been in detention since 2003 for being one of the leaders in the Oakwood uprising, includes “anti-poverty” in his legislative program but makes no mention of any proposed bill that would serve as an antidote to the RVAT. In fact his “anti-poverty” program does not touch on the country’s taxation system.


2005 and 2006 each witnessed impeachment drives against President Arroyo.

The impeachment campaigns were fuelled primarily by the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes –- in which a voice similar to the President’s is heard instructing an election official –- widely believed to be former Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano –- to rig the 2004 polls and assure her of victory by more than a million votes.

President Arroyo won by more than a million votes over her closest rival, actor Fernando Poe, Jr. who died in December 2004. She has admitted talking to election officials during the counting of votes, and Garcillano has admitted talking to candidates during the same period –- but both have denied rigging the 2004 elections.

In both 2005 and 2006, impeachment complaints were filed against President Arroyo, citing her for betrayal of public trust, bribery, graft and corruption, and culpable violation of the Constitution.

Escudero and Cayetano were among the most vocal proponents of the two impeachment bids in the House of Representatives.

Cayetano even raised allegations of congressmen having been bribed in exchange for voting against the 2005 impeachment complaint. “Don’t you know that this is the best Congress money can buy?” he said in a rally in September 2005.

Aquino voted against junking the complaints. Lacson supported both impeachment bids and members of his Be Not Afraid Movement were among the signatories to both complaints.

Trillanes was already in detention at the time of the impeachment crises and while he is not known to have made any direct statement on either of the two complaints, he is vocal in calling for President Arroyo’s ouster.

Legarda, who was Poe’s running mate in 2004, was pursuing her election protest against Vice President Noli de Castro when the impeachment campaign was at its peak.

Sotto was vocal in his support of both complaints, and Angara was aligned with the United Opposition (UNO), of which Escudero was also part, at the time of the impeachment crises. They have been hard-put to defend their transfer to the administration camp.

Zubiri and Pichay voted to junk both impeachment bids. Defensor and Singson both came out with statements supporting President Arroyo during the impeachment crises.

The Subic rape case and the VFA

The Subic rape case of November 2005 put the VFA, which grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial privileges on U.S. troops visiting the country for military “exercises,” on the spotlight six years after it was approved by the Senate and ratified by Malacañang.

Based on Senate records, those who voted in favor of the VFA were: Marcelo Fernan, then Senate President; Robert Barbers, Rodolfo Biazon, Rene Cayetano, Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng, Franklin Drilon, Juan Ponce Enrile, Juan Flavier, Gregorio Honasan, Robert Jaworski, Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Blas Ople, Teresa Aquino-Oreta, John Osmeña, Ramon Revilla, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Vicente Sotto III and Francisco Tatad. Those who voted against the VFA were Teofisto Guingona Jr., Loren Legarda, Sergio Osmeña III, Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Raul Roco, Senate records also show.

Oreta and Sotto are running under Team Unity; while Coseteng, John Osmeña, and Legarda are all running under the Genuine Opposition.

Arroyo was among a group that petitioned the Supreme Court in 1999 to declare the VFA as “void and unconstitutional.” He was in this group with former Senate President Jovito Salonga, former Sen. Wigberto Tañada, University of the Philippines (UP) professor Roland Simbulan, Pablito Sanidad, Ma. Socorro Diokno, Nini Quezon-Avanceña, Francisco Rivera Jr., Rene Saguisag, Kilosbayan, and the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism (MABINI).

Political repression and killings

The issue of political repression, together with extrajudicial killings of activists and other government critics, has been one of the main issues against the Arroyo regime since the latter part of 2005.

In late 2005 Malacañang imposed the calibrated preemptive response policy (CPR), which dropped the maximum tolerance policy on protest actions. This was soon followed by Executive Order No. 464, which prohibited cabinet officials from appearing in congressional hearings without clearance from the Office of the President. In February 2006, President Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, which declared a “state of emergency” throughout the country and allowed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “intervene” in “national security situations.”

The three decrees led to violent dispersals of rallies, the suspension of congressional investigations in aid of legislation, and a crackdown on prominent anti-administration groups and personalities –- most notably from the Left.

Meanwhile, the issue of extrajudicial killings has aroused condemnation even from local quarters that previously declined from criticizing the Arroyo regime, as well as from the international community. State forces are seen as the perpetrators in several of the cases of extrajudicial killings, which are linked with the government’s counter-insurgency drive as can be gleaned from several statements by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales.

The recently-passed Anti-Terrorism Bill is seen as a repressive measure because it defines “terrorism” so broadly that even legal protest actions may be classified as “acts of terrorism,” and even legal cause-oriented groups may be proscribed as “terrorist organizations.”

When the Supreme Court declared CPR as unconstitutional, Joker Arroyo was jubilant. He was likewise opposed to EO 464 and PP 1017.

However, he voted in favor of the Anti-Terrorism Bill and has urged the public to be “careful” in condemning the AFP for extrajudicial killings.

Another Team Unity candidate who voted in favor of the Anti-Terrorism Bill was Recto.

Villar likewise voted in favor of the bill.

Lacson, like Arroyo, opposed CPR, EO 464, and PP 1017. However, he was the author of one of five Anti-Terrorism Bills filed in the Senate, and he voted in favor of the final version.

Meanwhile, Escudero and Cayetano were both vocal against CPR, EO 464, and PP 1017. Escudero has gone as far as saying that extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo regime are worse than those which took place during the Marcos dictatorship.

Wage hike

The Arroyo administration earned the ire of labor groups –- most notably the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) –- early on for refusing to pass a legislated wage hike bill that would help the people cope with rising costs of living.

The KMU has been demanding a legislated P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase for private-sector workers. This particular demand of the KMU, which Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran put forward at the House of Representatives, was recently also supported by the Partido ng Manggagawa (Workers’ Party) which was represented by Renato Magtubo in the 13th Congress.

Other groups like the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) have also raised demands for wages increases, but these were much lower than that of the KMU and Anakpawis.

KMU also supports the demand of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) for a legislated P3,000 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase for public-sector workers.

Recto and Villar had early on made known their opposition to a legislated wage increase. Joker Arroyo, meanwhile, was a proponent of a 10-percent salary increase for government employees –- a measure that heavily favors those with higher salaries over the rank-and-file.

Escudero, meanwhile, has been vocal in supporting legislated wage hike for both private-sector workers and government employees.

Trillanes’ legislative agenda includes a bill that would provide for an automatic and periodic wage review, based on three-year changes in the inflation rate.

“This is a proven effective anti-corruption policy employed by other countries,” Trillanes said. “It also intends to provide for a decent standard of living for all government employees as well as to attract qualified people from the private sector to join government.

Still preliminary

This, thus far, is how some of the candidates from both Team Unity and the Genuine Opposition have stood on a number of major people’s issues. The assessment that may be made from these is still preliminary and only a clearer articulation of the candidates’ respective legislative proposals would enable a deeper analysis of how they stand vis-à-vis issues affecting the people whose votes they court. Bulatlat

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Can a project for monitoring air pollution turn out to be as dirty as the air it is supposed to monitor? This is the question provoked by the DENR’s Air Monitoring Network Project, for which the government agency has been paying a contractor, through a foreign loan, to set up, maintain, and operate 10 air quality monitoring stations in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.


Can a project for monitoring air pollution turn out to be as dirty as the air it is supposed to monitor?

This is the question provoked by the Air Monitoring Network Project (AMNP) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), for which the government agency has been paying a contractor, through a foreign loan, to set up, maintain, and operate 10 air quality monitoring stations in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Based on a 2005 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), Metro Manila ranks among the urban areas in the world with the most polluted air -- next only to Mexico City, Shanghai, and New Delhi. Metro Manila, the country’s National Capital Region (NCR), had been climbing the air pollution charts for the few years previous to 2005.

This is the situation that the Metro Manila Air Quality Improvement Sector Development Program (MMAQISDP) was supposed to mitigate. Funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to the tune of $623.36 million, the MMAQISDP was supposed to be implemented from December 1998 to December 2006 in support of the implementation of the Clean Air Act of 1999.


The AMNP is part of the MMAQISDP and is funded by ADB Loan No. 1665 aiming to set up, operate, and maintain a network of 10 air monitoring stations around the Metro Manila airshed, which includes Pampanga, Laguna, Cavite, and Batangas.

The ten stations are located in the following areas: Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Road, Quezon City; Bureau of Broadcasting Services, Marulas, Valenzuela City; Clark Air Field, San Fernando City, Pampanga; Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Sta. Mesa, Manila; Cavite State University, Indang; Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City; Bureau of Plant Industry, Los Banos, Laguna; Provincial Veterinary Office, Batangas City; New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City; and Valle Verde Subdivision, Pasig City (mobile van). These stations are expected to measure criteria air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulate matter and total suspended solids; as well as non-criteria pollutants like benzene, toluene, and xylene (henceforth to be referred to in combination as BTX).

The AMNP can be traced all the way to November 2000, when the DENR called for tenders in the repair and upgrading of the ten stations. The only responsive bidder was ETI-IMACH, a joint venture between Emission Technology, Inc. (ETI), a Guam-based U.S. company; and its local partner, Industramach, Inc. (IMACH), an accredited equipment supplier of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

On Nov. 26, 2002, then Environment Secretary Heherson Alvarez signed a contract with ETI-IMACH for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the ten stations with full concurrence from the DENR and the ADB. The operation and maintenance of the ten stations by ETI-IMACH began in October 2003 and was to have ended on December 31, 2006.

The project also entailed the involvement of a quality assistance or quality control consultant to ensure that all information produced by the air monitoring network meets quality standards. The DENR executed a contract with Maunsell Hongkong, Ltd. on April 13, 2004.

“It turned out to be a dirty and expensive environmental failure,” saidx Celemente Bautista Jr., chairman of the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE), in an interview. “It didn’t serve its purpose.”

Polluted deal

From November 2003 to October 2004, the DENR paid ETI-IMACH $64,198.07 monthly for operations and maintenance. ETI-IMACH received the payments even at times when not all 10 stations were operating simultaneously.

ETI reported certain deficiencies in the Quality Assurance Project Plan to the DENR in October 2004. The next month, payment for the operation and maintenance of the stations was suspended over technical and contractual issues. On Dec. 22 that same year, Undersecretary for Forestry and Environment Ramon Paje and the EMB issued a memorandum suspending payments to ETI and Maunsell for inadequate performance of the consultants.

One of the bigger problems to crop up was what would be seen as ETI’s use of unreliable equipment.

On Feb. 14, 2005, the EMB met with ETI-IMACH to discuss issues related to ETI’s contractual obligations. Among the issues discussed were delays in project implementation.

“The reason of ETI for the delay in the operation of the BTX analyzers in all stations which was the delayed site acquisition, was not accepted by the EMB,” wrote Jean N. Rosete of the MMAQISDP in the minutes of the Feb. 14, 2005 meeting which she prepared. “It was pointed out by EMB that it is more of (a) technology problem (BTX AIM analyzers). Hence, the ETI was requested to get a certification for verification from the manufacturer...”

Among those listed in the minutes of the meeting as having been in attendance was Rep. Edcel Lagman.

That same day, IMACH withdrew as ETI’s local partner, citing among others what IMACH managing director Eduardo Mendoza described as ETI’s use of “ineffective” equipment.

Wrote Mendoza in a letter to then Environment Secretary Mike Defensor:

Invoking its supposed reputation as an equipment expert, ETI recommended the use of Air Instrument Measurement Open-path Analyzer to measure Benzene, Toluene and Xylene (BTX) in ambient air. Despite information that AIM analyzer is still in its developmental stage, ETI made Industramach and EMB believe that this equipment is already a developed and recognized ambient monitor. Unfortunately, ETI has failed to provide for the requested documentation by EMB to prove that this AIM analyzer is no longer in its developmental stage.

Moreover, the AIM analyzer has proven to be ineffective to measure the BTX parameters over a short open path length of ten (10) meters which was ETI’s biggest selling point for the approval of the equipment. Initial tests conducted of the analyzer installed at the Ateneo station could not provide quality BTX data. To make this analyzer unit work, our Filipino Instrumentation Specialists had to modify some of its hardware and totally its software, which proved to be expensive to (set up) and operate.

The BTX analyzers cost almost $1 million.

Mendoza also cited ETI’s alleged non-compliance with contractual obligations, as well as employment of “unqualified and unprofessional” personnel.

These issues prompted several reviews and inspections. The contractual and technical issues raised against ETI, however, remained unsolved, leading Usec. Armando de Castro to issue, on October 7, 2005, a final demand letter instructing ETI to comply with the contract.

ETI has refused to comply with the DENR’s final demand letter.


Lagman and the ADB have also pressured the DENR to continue the project.

In the minutes of a Sept. 15, 2005 between the DENR, ETI, and Maunsell, Lagman was cited as having expressed his intention to mediate between ETI and the EMB regarding financial issues of the contract; even as the legal aspect of his involvement had been passed on to his son Atty. Edcel Lagman Jr., based on an April 28, 2005 letter from the Lagman, Lagman and Mones Law Firm.

The ADB went to the extent of endorsing ETI, and commissioning Mr. Gordon Jones to conduct an evaluation from Sept. 27 to 29, 2005. Jones concluded that all monitoring stations are producing data in compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) standards.

On Nov. 11, 2005, Shihiru Date, an ADB transport specialist, wrote to Defensor saying that since Jones had completed his tasks the contractual issues related to the project had already been addressed. “Given the agreement reached, the progress made, and the assessment provided by USEPA, we would not see any reason at this stage to further delay the payment related to ETI’s work since November 2004,” wrote Giraud.

After evaluating the Jones report later that month, Undersecretary de Castro wrote on behalf of the EMB to Patrick Giraud, Director of the Infrastructure Division of the ADB’s Southeast Asia Department, saying that the DENR could not possibly agree with Date’s recommendations since ETI had yet to comply with the technical and contruactual issues and the resolution of contractual issues is “outside Jones’ competence.”

ETI once more refused to comply. On Dec. 7, 2005, ETI submitted a monthly report advising the DENR that various network stations are to be brought off-line and the network is degrading for lack of operational resources, as a result of “delinquency in payment.”

In 2006, the EMB made several recommendations for the termination of the project. This was concurred with by Atty. Armi Jane Roa Borje, officer-in-charge for the DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, in a Nov. 24, 2006 memorandum for then Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes.

On Dec. 14, 2006, ETI president Robert Wilson wrote to EMB director Ely Anthony Ouano, emphasizing the agreement forged the day before “in the presence and with the conformity of Sec. Angelo Reyes,” stipulating that the DENR-EMB shall immediately pay ETI in full the amount of $1.03 million corresponding to the billings of November 2004-February 2006.


“It is very illogical for the DENR secretary to pursue this project without considering the position of his officials, without considering the position of IMACH, one of the contractors, and without considering the country’s experience in the three years of the project,” Bautista told Bulatlat.

“There could be something dirty going on there,” the KPNE chairman added. “There could be corruption behind that.” Bulatlat

Friday, March 16, 2007


One of the most requested songs in the country’s most popular radio stations and music-oriented TV programs right now is “Tatsulok.” Written and composed way back in the late 1980s by Rom Dongeto of the activist folk-rock group Buklod, the song is presently being performed by rock band Bamboo.


One of the most requested songs in the country’s most popular radio stations and music-oriented TV programs right now is “Tatsulok.” Written and composed way back in the late 1980s, the song is presently being performed by rock band Bamboo.

“Tatsulok” was originally performed by the activist folk-rock group Buklod –- whose members were Noel Cabangon, Rom Dongeto, and Rene Boncocan. The language is highly symbolic, but the song is a clear-enough reference to the armed conflict between the government and the communist-led revolutionary movement.

The song’s persona counsels a little boy, simply called Totoy, to evade the bombs and bullets that may be headed in his direction:

Totoy bilisan mo, bilisan mo ang takbo
Ilagan ang mga bombang nakatutok sa ulo mo
Totoy tumalon ka, dumapa kung kailangan
At baka tamaan pa ng mga balang ligaw

Totoy makinig ka, huwag kang magpagabi
Baka pagkamalan pa't humandusay diyan sa tabi
Totoy alam mo ba kung ano ang puno't dulo
Ng di matapos-tapos na kaguluhang ito

“Totoy is a symbol of the ordinary masses,” said Dongeto, who is now the deputy executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), a non-government organization. “This conflict is rooted in something, and the song calls on people like Totoy to think and be critical,” said Dongeto.

“Well, it tells them to take care and avoid being killed, but it also calls on them to invert the pyramid,” Dongeto added. “For as long as opportunities and the distribution of resources are not equitable, and the country’s riches are controlled by only a few, the fundamental issues will remain and the war will continue. That is what the song says.”

Hindi pula’t dilaw ang tunay na magkalaban
Ang kulay at tatak ay di siyang dahilan
Hangga’t mas marami ang lugmok sa kahirapan
At ang hustisya ay para lang sa mayaman
Habang may tatsulok
At sila ang nasa tuktok
Hindi matatapos itong gulo

“The socio-political pyramid has to be inverted. It is the organized forces who will interpret how you will do that. But (what is clear is) to do that, you have to overhaul the decadent system that is subservient to foreign interests and the ruling elite,” Dongeto added.

Dongeto wrote and composed the song in 1989. It was a period of escalating struggle between the military and the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA). It was the height of the Aquino government’s enforcement of its counter-insurgency policy, the “Total War Policy,” of which the chief architect and implementer was then Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos. It was not only combatants who were bearing the brunt of the war, however, as the guns of state forces were also taking the lives of common folk as well as leaders of the open mass movement, and there were also many civilians getting caught in the crossfire.

“There were many people, ordinary people, getting killed in the countryside,” Dongeto said.

Lumilikas ang hininga ng kayraming mga tao
At ang dating lunting bukid ngayo’y sementeryo
Totoy kumilos ka, baligtarin ang tatsulok
At katulad mong mga dukha ang ilagay mo sa tuktok

The song was one of the first pieces Dongeto wrote and composed upon Buklod’s return to the country from Paris, where an international celebration of the bicentennial of the French Revolution had been held that same year. That same year, it was included in the album Karapatang Pantao, an anthology of songs by various artists, produced by Ed Formoso by special arrangement with the human rights group Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP) and recording company Dyna Products, Inc. In 1991, “Tatsulok” became the carrier song of Buklod’s second album.

“Tatsulok” quickly became a hit among activists and, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, even enjoyed some mainstream following through Karapatang Pantao. After that the song’s exposure would be mostly among the cause-oriented groups and its allies, until early this year when it once more broke through the mainstream, courtesy of rock band Bamboo which made it the carrier single of its third album, We Stand Alone Together, produced by EMI Music Philippines.

Bamboo the band is fronted by Bamboo Mañalac, former lead vocalist of rock band Rivermaya.

Dongeto said the publisher which holds the rights to his songs, M2K, was approached by EMI Records last year for permission to include the song in Bamboo’s third album. “I didn’t expect them to make it the carrier single,” he said. He is entitled to royalties being the song’s lyricist and composer.

The song as rendered by Bamboo is confirmed to have reached the top of the charts in at least three of the country’s most popular radio stations: Love Radio, YES FM, and Barangay LS. Its music video is also among the top ten hits in the music-oriented TV show Myx.

The audiences reached by “Tatsulok” right now are, to borrow a term frequently used by the cause-oriented groups, spontaneous or unorganized sections of the masses. These are the ones who are giving the song its present status as a chart-topper.

“This says something about the political situation,” Dongeto said when asked for his observations about the kind of popularity that “Tatsulok” now enjoys. “Human rights violations are very grave. People walking in the streets –- lawyers, students –- are being killed, and only for expressing their sentiments and airing their demands to the government. I think this is a national policy at this point to neutralize them.”

Based on data from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), there have been more than 830 extra-judicial killings from 2001 –- when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising –- to the present. The extra-judicial killings have been condemned even by the international community, including by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International and United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings Phillip Alston.

“The song is still very real, and I think the people can feel it and can relate to what is happening,” Dongeto said. Bulatlat

Friday, March 09, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

For Federico Licsi Espino

You insist,
complete with the needed mathematical logic,
that 1 + 1 = 0.

At this point it is found easy to brush you aside
as a head with loose screws.
It has long been proven and held as absolute
that 1 + 1 = 2.
There's solid proof behind that,
unearthed by the most scientific of methods.

But in a world where it's fashionable
to describe the night sky as brilliant blue,
in a world where fools are applauded
for making fools out of everyone --
who has the competence
to determine the state of your mind?

Saturday, March 03, 2007


U.S. troops have maintained a continuous presence in Sulu since 2004. Malacañang says they are there for “civic action.” However, their visibility in areas where AFP operations have been conducted raises questions on the real reasons behind their presence in the country’s southernmost province.


When an encounter between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) broke out in Barangay (Village) Buansa, Indanan, Sulu last week, U.S. troops who were a few kilometers away were seen running toward the direction of the gunfire. They were carrying their guns.

The fighting ensued after AFP troops attacked the camp of MNLF state chairman Khaid Ajibun in the said village.

Military spokespersons said the attack was brought about by reports that members of the bandit Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) were in the MNLF camp. The MNLF –- with which the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) signed a Final Peace Agreement in 1996 –- has repeatedly denied that it coddles ASG members.

In Brgy. Bato-Bato, also in Indanan, U.S. troops are presently busy with a road-construction project. That village is right now the center of AFP operations in Sulu, with an encounter having taken place only last March 2.

These were gathered by Bulatlat in an interview with Jolo Councilor Temojen “Cocoy” Tulawie.

This, Tulawie said, is just part of a larger picture that has been developing in Sulu since 2004.

“Military operations always take place not far from where U.S. troops are,” said Tulawie, who is also a convener of the Concerned Citizens of Sulu. “The presence of U.S. troops has been visible in areas where military operations have taken place.”

While Tulawie says there is yet no evidence that U.S. troops have actually participated in combat operations, their visibility in areas where AFP operations have been conducted raises questions on the real reasons behind their presence in the country’s southernmost province.

Making entry

Tulawie said the presence of U.S. troops in Sulu started in 2004 and has been continuous since then.

The Jolo councilor said that in one of his recent travels, he saw that several U.S. soldiers were among the passengers in the Sulu-bound plane from Manila.

“I talked to the guards in the airport here and they told me that U.S. soldiers arrive everyday,” Tulawie disclosed. “They come usually in the wee hours of the morning, just after midnight.”

U.S. troops would have entered Sulu as early as February 2003. The AFP and the U.S. Armed Forces had both announced that the Balikatan military exercises for that year would be held in Sulu.

This provoked a wave of protest from the people of Sulu, who had not yet forgotten what has come to be known as the Bud Dajo Massacre.

The Bud Dajo massacre, which took place in 1906, is described in some history texts as the “First Battle of Bud Dajo.” It was an operation against Moro fighters resisting the American occupation.

The description of the incident as a “battle,” however, is disputed considering the sheer mismatch in firepower between U.S. forces and the Moro resistance fighters. The 790 U.S. troops who assaulted Bud Dajo used naval cannons against the 800-1,000 Moro resistance fighters who were mostly armed only with melee weapons.

In the end, only six of the hundreds of Moro resistance fighters holding Bud Dajo as a stronghold survived, while there were 15-20 casualties among the U.S. troops.

The announcement in February 2003 that the year’s Balikatan military exercises would be held in Sulu summoned bitter memories of the Bud Dajo Massacre and led to protest actions where thousands of Sulu residents participated. “The situation was very tense here at that time,” Tulawie told Bulatlat.

The next year, however, U.S. troops came up with ingenious ways to find their way into Sulu.

“They started coming in small groups, bringing relief goods,” Tulawie said. “They concentrated on winning the hearts and minds of the people of Sulu.”

“Their strategy was effective,” Tulawie also admitted. “They have to some extent been able to neutralize the Sulu people’s resistance to their presence here.”

It is unclear how many U.S. troops there are in Sulu right now, Tulawie said. “They don’t tell us how many of them are here,” he pointed out.

Civil-military operations

The U.S. troops in Sulu are part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P). Based on several news items from the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the JSOTF-P are in Sulu to train the AFP’s Southern Command (Southcom) and to conduct civic actions.

However, an article recently written by Command Sgt. Maj. William Eckert of the JSOTF-P, “Defeating the Idea: Unconventional Warfare in Southern Philippines,” hints that there is more to the task force’s work than training AFP troops and embarking on “humanitarian actions.” Wrote Eckert:

Working in close coordination with the U.S. Embassy, JSOTF-P uses Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations forces to conduct deliberate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in very focused areas, and based on collection plans, to perform tasks to prepare the environment and obtain critical information requirements. The information is used to determine the capabilities, intentions and activities of threat groups that exist within the local population and to focus U.S. forces –- and the AFP –- on providing security to the local populace. It is truly a joint operation, in which Navy SEALs and SOF aviators work with their AFP counterparts to enhance the AFP’s capacities.

“There are U.S. troops stationed in all military camps in Sulu,” Tulawie added. “If they are here only to give training, as they and the Philippine government claim, there should be only a single training camp where they are to be stationed. But what is happening is different.” Bulatlat